Thursday, February 10, 2011

Several of Cecilia's Thoughts on Learning


Bouguereau's Atelier at the Academie Julian, Paris , 1891
Jefferson David Chalfant, artist (1856-1931)

The Ideal Maitre

Cecilia Beaux: "In Art, as in Religion, Faith is necessary - indispensable, in fact. What the student above all needs is to have his resources increased by the presence of a master whom he believes in, not perhaps as a prophet or adopted divinity, but one who is in unison with a living world, of various views, all of whose roots are deep, tried, and nourished by the truth, or rather the truths that Nature will reveal to the seeker. He is the present embodiment of performance in art, better called the one sent, representing all.

He is serious, quiet, a personality that has striven. Nothing breaks the sobriety of his visit. His thoughtful consideration of your drawing will be impartial. He will do you justice and will be gracious toward your earnestness, but it will be a simple matter for him to probe your weakness. He is a Parisian, though probably of provincial origin. He is one of the esteemed of his day and generation in the world of French Art. How much he has seen!

How great is his experience! How great his reverence! If his interest is slight, you suffer. If he seems to recognize in you some evidence of power to come, you will feel it in his few concise words as he passes on. Courage and persistence to perceive the truth flame up and stronger, quicker pulses feed subconscious force."

"Boulanger and Gerome had each a great following. Their influence was immense, and deservedly, for their personal view was never imposed. They inspired their students without bending them in any direction, and their most grateful pupils "arrived" without a trace of their master's style upon their canvases, and ready to undertake freshly individual subjects and treatment.

The legend was that Boulanger and Gerome were severe, and never spared their pupils' feelings. Gerome is said to have visited an ambitious American aspirant who had done a huge canvas for the Salon. It contained nine American Indians over life-size. Gerome examined the canvas, asked the artist why he didn't draw his moon with a compass, and left the studio."

Cecilia chose her teachers thoughtfully. For example, she had turned down the chance to study with Thomas Eakins because of his over-dominating personality. She did not want to learn from Carolus because she was going in a different direction with her art. But she was ready to listen indirectly to both of their instruction through conversation with their students. Her teachers' comments at l'Academie Julian - both positive and negative - drove her to greater efforts. And whether or not there was a teacher to direct or inspire her, she was highly self-motivated: always observing her subjects carefully, looking for artistic principles to learn and to put into practice.

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